Monday, June 24, 2013

Why Your Writing will Never be Perfect

Have you ever spent hours on a single paragraph, or pulled your hair out while trying to get that sentence just right? When I first started writing I would spend months on a chapter before I could move on to the next. Months! That's why it took me nine years to complete my first novel. While I might write that first draft a lot faster now, I still spend a long time adjusting, rewriting, editing, tweaking. While this is normal, and in fact should take up most of our novel writing time, there is a limit. As writers, I think it's important to know we can't reach perfection, and here's why:

1. Because we're human. To be human is to change and grow and that's reflected in our writing. We're constantly growing not only as people, but as writers as well. If we're doing it right, then we're continually learning the craft, and developing our style. This doesn't change. May we never stop pushing ourselves to do better and be better. Consequently, this means what we wrote six months ago will be very different to what we'll write today, or six months from now.

2. Because it's how we're trained. Even if our writing approaches close-to-perfect, we have this in-built need to search for what might be wrong with it. Even when I read a standard novel, I still edit it in my head. I can't help it. Sometimes I can switch the inner editor off and simply enjoy the story, but it's a conscious decision not to edit.

3. Because perfection is not a constant. Writers are moody creatures. One day we'll love our work and the next we'll think the same piece is damp dog with fleas. There's no getting out of it. On those doggy days we just have to be kind to ourselves … and the dog.

4. Because perfection takes too long. Yes it's important to strive for the best you can do, but if you'd like to get published this decade, then you need to make the decision to stop tweaking and start sending the manuscript out into the big wide world.

5. Because a great story is what matters. If your story is a rehash of everything that's gone before, then no amount of perfection will save it. If your story is unique and has that special spark, then imperfections won't be what holds it back.

6. Because we can't please everyone—not even ourselves. As I said before, all we can do is our best. By that I don't mean pick up a that-will-do attitude. Striving for perfection is still important, crucial even. We still need to send our work out to critique partners, check our grammar, make sure there are no glaring plot holes. We just need to accept that absolute perfection is unattainable.

Do you have trouble letting a piece go for fear it's not perfect? How do you decide when your manuscript is ready?

Photo: None of my photos fit for this post, so I went for one I took in the port of Vila, Vanuatu, last year. Check out those beautiful waters! No colour adjustment. That’s how they appear!

Note: Last week I received an email offering me a $30 Amazon gift voucher if I’d let Grammarly sponsor my next post. I checked out their website and thought, “Cool! Book money!” All they wanted me to do was place at the top of my post, “I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because… [fill in the blank with something clever for a chance to win a $1000 gift voucher]”. I’m the first to admit I’m a wary soul when it comes to the intertubes but this sounded like a good deal. I wrote my post and went to their website to run a grammar check of my words. 

As the check ticked off a bunch of grammar rules, a little graphic, which is designed to scare you, placed little red crosses on flipping pages. Oh noes, it’s picked up some errors! When I waited for the results, they didn’t come through. Instead I got a list of how many faults it had picked up. 44 errors! Okay, fine. Where are these errors? Oh I need to officially sign up for the 7 day free trial! Siiiiigh. Annoying, but fine. So I started filling in the three stage form only to discover that I had to give them my credit card details on the final form to get the 'free' trial. I could, of course, cancel at any time. 

Why would I give my credit card details for something I’ve never seen in action? Is it so hard to give me a real free trial? This screamed dodgy as a dodgy screw in dodge town. Now, this service could be legit, and if I ever find out for sure (without risking my credit card details) I’ll be more than happy to share here. Seems to me, if it is legit, then surely they’d have more faith in their product to offer a genuine, risk-free trial?

Update--Tuesday 25th June: The people at Grammarly have kindly given me a two week risk-free trial of their editing program. Looks like they do have faith in their product after all. We'll see how it goes. 

Update, March 2019: Grammarly tried spamming my blog with their advertising. I wasn't impressed. Previously they also tried to get me to remove the above and my review. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Darkest Day Cover Reveal

Darkest Day, Book three of the 19th Year by Emi Gayle.

Mac Thorne’s time as a Changeling is coming to an end.

It may have taken eighteen years, but Mac did finally manage to do what the Council wanted: she chose a teacher and renounced the in-between.

There’s just one last step. She must say goodbye to her human. Forever.

After being challenged in every way possible, Mac leaves what she thought would be the easiest task for the last possible moment. As midnight on July fourth draws near, though, she hasn’t found a way to give up Winn Thomas.

Nor does she want to.

With time running out, Mac stands at a literal crossroads.

Choose Winn, and she’ll be stripped of the only family she’s ever known—vampires, dragons, and her favorite demon. Even her own mother. Accept her position on the Council and rule as an equal to her twelve peers, and she’ll forget Winn ever existed.

Independence and freedom have never before been so limiting.

In this final chapter of the 19th Year Trilogy, it’s time for Mac to decide.

Responsibility? Or Love
Book 1: After Dark
Book 2: Day After--Newish Release
Book 3: Darkest Day--to be released 6th January 2014

Well, I'm back after a few weeks of being sick. Last week was particularly unfun in the flu department. I'm still not 100% but I'm getting there. Much rejoicing! At least now I'm fit enough to be writing and visiting everyone again.

How have you been lately? Read any top notch books you want to share? Achieved any goals you want to celebrate?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why it's Good to Rush to Get Published

One of my regular tips to burgeoning writers is, don't rush to get published. Slow down, enjoy the process, learn the craft, get it right, indulge, experiment. And while I still stand by this advice, I'd like to emphasize it's also good to rush.

How is that even possible—to rush and not rush at the same time?

I'll start by explaining why it's good to rush:
Rushing to 'get published' gives us writers a sense of urgency. This urgency in turn gives us focus. We become more likely to finish that tricksy first draft. We're placed in a better mind frame to complete multiple edits. We push ourselves to learn those boring grammar rules because we want our stories to be the best they can be. The rush drives us to step out of our comfort zones, to meet other authors, network, attend conferences, join workshops, and take the rollercoaster ride that carries us from Hobby Station to Career City.

Of course, as part of that rollercoaster ride, we experience two opposing forces tugging at our senses—to rush, and not to rush. Very Hamlet. But before you start pontificating philosophical arguments to skulls, remember balance is key.

If your writing becomes a painful chore because you're not 'getting published', then you're rushing too much.

If you jump into self-publishing thinking you'll find overnight success without a professional edit or cover design, then you're in too much of a rush.

If, like me, you're down with a nasty bout of flu and you're getting frustrated because you're too sick to write and it's June already—JUNE, for goodness sakes!!!—then, well, that's part of the rollercoaster ride and you need to accept that sometimes life will throw you that curve ball and no matter how much you try to duck and weave, there ain't no avoiding it. Take the necessary time out and deal with whatever it is that's holding you back from writing. As a good friend said, "Your backbrain continues to hammer things out." In other words, the writer's mind never stops.

How do you deal with the crazies generated by the need to 'get published'?

This post was written for Alex J Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers' Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. It's a fantastic supportive group. Come join us.

My apologies to my wonderful bloggy friends whom I haven't managed to visit recently, but I'm gonna go crawl back to bed. I will visit as soon as I can.

Happy writing. Happy rushing.


Lynda R Young